Wisdom with a wrench? It comes with experience, the many hours of turning the tools, tuning an engine.
For nearly 30 years, a crew of methodical mechanics of mostly 50- and 60-somethings has shared the garage at the Auburn City Imports Auto Repair.
Different in personalty, they are similar in their attention to detail. Each came from other dealerships, different backgrounds, yet forged a tight bond.
“Great group of guys,” Chuck Burr said, glancing into the busy auto repair business at the corner of East Main and M streets, his home away from home since 1995. “I’ve always joked … we’re kind of the land of the misfit techs, instead of the misfit toys, because we’ve all been in the industry for so long. That’s one thing about mechanics: we all have our quirks.”
Burr’s misfits were once young hands who grew up solving engine and transmission troubles, toiling under the hoods and underbellies of cars. Over the years, in workmanlike fashion, they have kept an independent, family-owned-and-operated small business running smoothly.
The shop – a fixture in Auburn’s auto repair business community for 38 years – will stay open, its same crew ready, but the man behind it has decided to move on.
Burr, who established the business on the other side of town back in 1980, watched it grow and moved it to a bigger lot on East Main Street, retired earlier this month. He sold the business to Mark and Monique Wuesthoff effective Nov. 1. The new owners plan to keep a good thing going and expand service and repairs beyond Hondas and Acuras to other makes and models.
At 65, Burr said it was time to do other things. It’s been a great ride, he said, working with skilled techs and serving generations of people.
“I’ve been really lucky because I have had really good people to work with,” Burr said. “I haven’t had a changeover of people all the time. … They’ve been my friends. We’ve worked together for 30 years. And my customers have been just great. I’ve watched their children grow up, and now their children have been coming in. I’ve seen a lot of customers pass away. … It’s life.”
Burr, who grew up in Auburn and graduated from Auburn High School, began as a teenager tinkering on small-cc motorcycle engines at Hinshaw’s. He worked at the Honda dealership for nearly 10 years, during which time he attended several training schools before deciding to venture out on his own and open an independent shop on Auburn Way South that catered to Honda-made cars.
Business grew, thanks in part to Burr’s wife, Suzan, a personable soul who knew how to treat customers.
Burr found his niche with Hondas, a simply-designed machine he felt comfortable working with.
“It’s a great car, and anyone who buys a Honda, buys another one,” he said. “We worked on all the Asian (import models) now, but nobody does it quite like Honda.”
In running his own business, Burr considers himself more of a technician than a manager, having great confidence in his crew.
Jerry Vixie, Jeff Ducken, Harold Locke and Larry Dillon do the job. The staff said the shop has been successful because Burr is compassionate, bestows good values and understands customers.
“I worked at several dealerships, but he’s the best mechanic I’ve ever worked with,” said Vixie, who has been a technician at Auburn City Imports since 1991. “He’s a nice guy, generous … and your friend. I’ll miss him. It’s been a good ride.”
Burr plans to spend more time with family, maybe do a little travelling, in retirement.
The shop is in good hands, he said.
“I want to get on with my life. I’ve worked all my life,” he said. “Looking back on it, it’s been a nice experience to see all these people come and go, have their kids grow up and have my friends around me every day.”